Limuru III is all about ethnic gain and the 'our turn to eat' narrative

A section of Mt Kenya leaders led by Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua dance during the Limuru III meeting at Jumuiya Conference in Kiambu. [George Njunge, Standard]

The politics of tribes are Kenya’s civic staple. Pious rooftop proclamations about one Kenyan nation are unbridled deceit. Project Kenya flopped long ago.

The rain began beating us as soon as we entered the house of freedom. The big boys and girls began grabbing opportunities within the herd.  

Nothing has changed since. Prime openings belong to the tribe that produces the big boy. Without any pretext in disguise, the rest are treated like foreign drifters and lost squatters. They are trespassers, second-class citizens.

Meanwhile, the big man’s tribe is everywhere, even in the smallest office tea supplies tender. It is their turn to eat. And often, it’s their turn to eat again. Often too, they gloat about it.  

These uncomfortable truths justify the vexed Limuru III meeting. The assembly has sparked controversy, even in the Mountain itself. Some in the political class from the Mountain accuse the organisers of fomenting vile ethnic sentiments. Are they sincere?

The situational irony is some of these critics climbed the tribal ladder to where they are. It is worth restating that Kenya since independence has been a salute to tribalism by those at the top. Senior appointments in the public service belong to the big man’s tribe. The few exceptions are tokens. But even in such tokenism, there is always a tribal surrogate, understudying and second-guessing the boss.

It is all about tendering. The big boys in government do both real and imaginary business with the government. Everyone else can wait for their day. Hopefully, their man will someday ascend to the very top. The flag of independence was raised with this agenda on the minds of the founders.

Hence, leadership at the very top basks in tribalism, while paying lip service to Kenyan nationhood. It is possible to hold a top-level official meeting in a public office in the dominant ethnic language without offending anyone. The lucrative energy sector is a prime example. I need not elaborate. 

The people of Mt Kenya, therefore, have the right to meet as a community identity group. These people are honest whereas everyone else is insincere. It doesn’t matter that it is honesty of a rather deviant nature. Give it to them.

They are honest that they are thinking as a tribe. Martha Karua and Jeremiah Kioni – the face of the convenors – believe the Mountain is eating a dirty sandwich.

Separately, Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua is also unhappy. He wants some more gruel, like Oliver Twist. His clarion call is a shilling per person in the distribution of development in Kenya. 

Never mind that there are those who believe Mt Kenya has enjoyed undue leverage under Presidents Jomo Kenyatta, Mwai Kibaki, Uhuru Kenyatta, and even now under William Ruto. 

Yet, even that does not delegitimise Limuru III. Other communities need to take the cue. They too can review their fortunes as ethnic groups. Communities with smaller populations can grope towards each other, to constitute the alliance of the marginal, and speak with one voice. Only then will the giants listen to them. 

Moreover, the smaller tribes can also take solace in the knowledge that numbers don’t always count. The Abaluhya community, in which I was born, has massive numbers that mean nothing. Believed to be the second most populous community in Kenya, the Abaluhya are at best a clueless sleeping giant.

They will try to buy chicken at a dog market. They remain a decidedly naïve delicacy on the Kenyan political menu. 

One or two politicos from this community may arrive at the high table of hope. Yet, without exception, they remain self-focused eating chiefs. Provided that they are individually well-fed, nobody else matters. They see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil. They are only slightly uneasy when some George Natembeya from Trans Nzoia disturbs the tranquil waters.

Limuru III is a wake-up call to all Kenyans on tribalism. It is a reminder that Project Kenya is a flop. It has been betrayed by those who have occupied the highest executive office in the land. Should the country continue living this lie?

The message from Limuru III is that days of unbridled ethnic machismo are numbered. In future, Kenyans are going to be more conscious of their ethnic scarcity than ever before. The items on the menu are waking up.

Yet, even they must know that they cannot get what they want if the goal is to dominate other tribes. So, let us drop the hypocrisy. Let the Mountain pursue its dream.

But, in this pursuit, it will have the good sense to also reflect on how it will co-exist with other tribes. For it cannot be about them alone. Where do they want to leave everyone else?